Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Mental failings need to be fixed

Shaun Johnson of the Kiwis during the Rugby League World Cup Group B match against Samoa. Photo / Getty Images
Shaun Johnson of the Kiwis during the Rugby League World Cup Group B match against Samoa. Photo / Getty Images

For all the reputation, power and presence of the Kiwis team, I was not impressed with their overall performance in their encounter against a fragile, albeit enthusiastic, French outfit. It was not an encouraging sign after a mixed showing a week earlier against the Samoans.

Despite the usual positive spin by some commentators, this game should have had a result in the region of 60-plus points, with a minimal error rate and a completion rate in the vicinity of 90 per cent. The only aspect of the French performance to inhibit us from scoring freely from the outset was their enthusiasm in defence. However that, coupled with the Kiwi team's lack of discipline with the ball on attack, contributed to the non-completion of sets.

At stages during the first half and early in the second, the game lacked flow and led to frustration by both teams and me as a spectator. I never look through rose-coloured lenses when watching games and hence to tend to be viewed as being negative - but I am looking at how things can be done better.

I learned a lesson many years ago from the great Ray Price. The Parramatta and Australian lock forward told me to never be satisfied with your performance; you can always be better and you can always do things differently if you want to improve. I took that to heart and carried it with me ever since.

This may be to the displeasure of friends and family when we watch games together but it's how I seek to improve a team's attitude to what they are doing. So even when teams win by large margins, I won't pat them all on the back and tell them how good they were. It was probably a result that can be viewed as good, just like the Kiwi team and their 48-0 score line, but it should have been better than that.

Back to the game itself and there will still be concerns from Stephen Kearney and Ivan Cleary who are looking at finals combinations. In particular Kevin Locke did not have the best of games and the large break between the end of season and this tournament is revealing in the lack of his timing.

A couple of other players are in the same boat and they may not get too many more minutes in this competition. As this was not the best team that played the French, I do not think the higher profile players on the bench would have changed the performance a great deal.

There is still a mental aspect which needs to be addressed and indicates why, we as a team, struggle at times for consistency. There is not much time to improve this other than a collective agreement to try harder. It sounds simple but is the most difficult aspect of a performance.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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